Thursday, August 18, 2016

Are Your Sticky Note Icons Too Small? Make them Bigger!

Though I've grown to like Acrobat DC, one of my ongoing complaints about it is that it is too difficult to see which annotations are selected. Take a look at the following examples:

Acrobat 9
Acrobat XI
Acrobat DC
Notice how the sticky notes in both Acrobat 9 and XI had nice thick blue borders around them. But notice how delicate and thin the border is on the sticky note in Acrobat DC. While I realize that the Acrobat UI designers probably wanted to make the sticky notes less obtrusive, now they can be quite difficult to see. If I have multiple sticky notes on a very complex page, it's easy for those tiny little blue lines to get lost.

Also, something that is not apparent in these little screenshots is that in Acrobat 9 and XI, the blue lines around the sticky notes were actually marching ants. They had a very subtle blink to them, while the blue line around the DC icon does not blink at all, making it even more difficult to locate the sticky note on the page.

I recently stumbled across an older thread on the Acrobat forums that discussed how to increase the size of sticky notes. AND IT IS GOLD!

The first sticky note on the left is a normal sized sticky note. If you keep running the script, you keep increasing the size of your sticky notes. Now you can easily see it on the page!

This scripting goodness is courtesy of Try67, Acrobat scripter extraordinaire.
Select your sticky note, open the JS console (Ctrl+J), enter this code, select it and press Ctrl+Enter:
var r = selectedAnnots[0].rect;
r[2] += r[2]-r[0];
r[3] += r[3]-r[1];
selectedAnnots[0].setProps({rect: r})
This script works in Acrobat X, XI, and DC.

Edit 8-19-16: Try67 recently adapted this script to also work on text annotations, such as cross-outs and underlines. It is available for sale for $50. Check it out!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Number Knitting #2: Colorizing Photos in Photoshop

In my efforts to republish the Number Knitting book, I am trying to recruit knitters to help me reknit all the patterns from the book, so that I can take new photographs. In order to breathe a bit of life back into the photographs, I am colorizing them in Photoshop.

Here is the photo as I originally scanned in it. It has low contrast and looks pretty boring.
Checkerboard Design Table Mat
I've been experimenting with a few different ways to colorize my images, and here's what I'm doing now. I'll likely change it up, as I get more sophisticated with colorizing. But I find this method to be pretty flexible for what I need.

1. So in Photoshop, I started by adjusting the curves. I just clicked Auto.

Auto Curves
2. I set the blend mode to multiply.
Set Blend Mode to Multiply
3. Then I created a new layer, moved it below the image, named it,  and went to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. The first and most important thing to understand when working with masking is that black hides and white reveals. So I start by hiding everything, and then I'll paint in with white to reveal just the parts that I want to be blue.

4. Make sure that you have your pixels portion of your layer selected. See the little border around the transparent pixels in the image below?

5. Then go to Edit > Fill > Color > and choose a nice blue.

And the result is nothing so far. But now we'll start painting in the areas that we want to be blue. 

6. Select your paintbrush tool, and choose white for your foreground color. Start painting in around the parts that you want to be blue. Then fill in the area clean up the edges, adjusting your brush size and feather as needed. You can adjust your brush size using the [ and ] keys.

  • ] will increase the size of you brush.
  • [ will decrease the size of your brush.

You can also adjust the feather of your brush using the keyboard.

  • Shift + ] increases the hardness (decreasing the feather).
  • Shift + [ decreases the hardness (increasing the feather).

7. It looks pretty good, right? 

If you go to the Channels panel, and turn on the mask, you can see that there are still some areas that I missed. See the light red poking through the blue near the edges of the table mat?

Now I can more easily see those areas and fill them in.

8. Use this same technique to paint in all the Blue areas.

9. Then repeat this process for the light blue squares.

What I really like about this technique is that now, changing the colors is as easy as adding a different fill color.

You can even add a gradient fill, to mimic variegated yarns.

10. Now that I have the picture colored the way I want, I can choose some yarns to match it; Because the objective of this project is not just to colorize old photos, but to get people to knit these projects. The colors in Photoshop need to be a representation of the actual materials they'll be using the knit the pattern.

The original pattern calls for cotton yarn in an afghan weight. In modern day terms, that means a worsted weight yarn. Just this morning, I discovered some great worsted weight cotton yarn, in a variety of colors, at an affordable price. Conveniently, enough, it's called "Dishie" (because it is super durable and suitable for dishcloths and other kitchen-related tasks).  Cotton yarns are typically rather muted in color.

For my original colorway of blues, I'll choose Dishie in Blue and Azure.

But if you look at the original blue colored photo, the blues I chose are too intense.

By reducing the opacity of the blue layers, I can more closely match the color of the yarn that I'm specifying for the checkerboard table mat pattern. I reduced the Blue layer to 80% and the Light Blue layer to 60%.

Would you like to knit this pattern and provide photos for the book? If so, please let me know! I look forward to knitting with you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Number Knitting #1: My Quest to Republish "Number Knitting: The New All Way Stretch Method"

For around seven years now, this blog has focused primarily on the software I use for my publishing and design business: InDesign, Acrobat, and occasionally Illustrator and Photoshop. Once in awhile, some knitting related articles have snuck in, but they have always tied into the design software.

As of lately, my loves, publishing and knitting, are beginning to merge on an entirely new level. I have set out to republish an out-of-print knitting book from 1952. And it's quite an endeavor. It's not so simple as scanning the old book, running OCR, and giving the text a facelift. Oh no! If it was that simple, I could have this project done in a matter of weeks. Instead, recreating this book will take a year or more, perhaps several... and that's if I hustle, and get lots of help with the knitting.

The book I'm working to republish is called "Number Knitting" The New All Way Stretch Method." Most knitters (even very experienced ones) have never heard of this book, because it only had one printing, and it the the only knitting book that the author ever wrote. So once it was printed, that was it! It is very hard to come by, and if you can find a used copy for sale online, it will likely fetch around $150. But I have seen one for sale for as high as $900. I have never seen more than one for sale on Amazon at any one time.

But as this blog is still a graphic design blog, I'll keep all the really publishing-specific content regarding the book here on my blog.

Because I aim to document the process of recreating this book, I'll be sharing milestones along the way. Here are a few milestones thus far:

  • December 2015: Scanned in book (a library copy)
  • January 2016: Received my own purchased copy of the book!
  • January 2016: Began knitting the pieces in the book
  • February 2016: Submitted request to US Copyright Office for a copyright renew/transfer search
  • April 2016: Received word back from the Copyright Office that the copyright was never renewed or transferred. (So the original copyright protection expired in 1979.)
  • April 2016: Started knitting "Lambs and Butterflies" form the original patent application
Lambs and Butterflies pattern from original patent application

Are you interested in helping me knit the pieces from the book? Join us on Ravelry.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sort Comments by Color, in Acrobat DC! FINALLY!

My workflow is heavily dependent upon color-coded comments in PDFs. For seven years now, I have used Acrobat 9 on a daily basis, because none of the newer versions of Acrobat offered any kind of way to sort comments by color.  In fact, neither Acrobat X, XI, or DC supported sorting comments by color, and I complained about it for years. I even made a YouTube video bemoaning this fact.

A few months ago, I wrote an article explaining a workaround that I had come up with to deal with the fact that Acrobat DC didn't support sorting comments by color. Basically, involved sacrificing your author name for the name of the color, and then sorting comments by author name.

I complained about this to everyone who would listen: I've blogged about it, mentioned it at conference and user group meetings (with a microphone); I've talked on the phone and emailed anyone at Adobe who would listen to me. For years!  Apparently, it finally sunk in. I don't know how many other voices in the Acrobat community were complaining about this feature that has been missing for the last seven years, but regardless, the feature has finally made it's way back into the toolset of the latest release of Acrobat. Hopefully now when Adobe decides (again) to completely redesign Acrobat, they won't fail to leave out this feature.

So let's see see how to works!

For reference: here is a color-coded document viewed in Acrobat 9, with its comments sorted by color.
Sort Comments by Color: Acrobat 9

Now here is the newly added Sort Comments by Color in Acrobat DC 2016 May and January release.
Sort Comments By Color: Collapsed
You can also expand each individual color to interact with just those comments, while still keeping the rest collapsed.

Sort Comments By Color: Expanded

Besides the ability to Sort Comments by Color, they also added a handy twirl-down to collapse the main colors. But this twirl-down doesn't just exist for colors, it works for all the sorting methods.  To Expand or Collapse all the comments, click on the Options button (little series of dots). Then choose Collapse All.

This is HUGE for me! There are still a few features I wish they would improve, or add, such as :
Comments Options: Acrobat XI
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Narrow
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Wide
Comments Selected in Various Versions of Acrobat
But finally, I can actually use Acrobat DC or my color-coded commenting needs.

Additional Thoughts

After some experimentation, I also found that Adobe added something new: called the "Color Picker." Its's very easy to use, and offers 18 different colors, which is plenty! Honestly, most people only have a few colors of highlighters on the cup in their desk, so I applaud the simplification of color choices.

But interestingly, they also still have the Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E). The Properties Toolbar has 40 different colors, which in my opinion, was too many. The icons were too small, and it was easy to choose the wrong color. But if you like the old Properties Toolbar, it is still there.

Old Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E)

But the Properties Toolbar is getting buggy, and I suspect that Adobe will eventually phase it out, as it now longer works with text comments. Now, you need to use the Text Formatting Tools (which are available as an option to customize your commenting tools so you don't have to visually sort through 20 different tools to find the one or two that you use regularly). To view the entire list of new features added, visit the Adobe website to see what's new in Acrobat DC.

For months now, I've been feeling frustrated with Adobe, and that the decision-makers aren't concerned with the needs of their users (unless of course, those users needed mobile link or the ability to sign contracts on a tablet or other fancy-new-whiz-bang features).

It sure is nice to know that there are actually people at Adobe who are listening, and are willing (and allowed) to design and implement features that only a small percentage of users need. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Acrobat team for finally implementing these much-needed features.

Edit 5-16-16: After working with the improved commenting in Acrobat DC, I still have a few things on my wish-list, listed in order of importance:

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Make Tie-Dye Patterns in InDesign

I recently stumbled across RagingHull, which is a very cool script from Indiscripts. Indiscripts's tagline is "InDesign Scripting Playground."

According to the Indiscripts website:
"While studying bounding boxes and transformations I realized we could get nice patterns based on successive rotations applied to a given shape. As InDesign instantly determines the coordinates of the enclosing rectangle whatever the page item transform state, I had fun in drawing those boxes while varying strokes and angles. Jongware made similar experiments with its famous Spirographs script. RagingHull is just another free toy that reveals the bounds of a spinning object…"
The samples in the original article all used solid colors and "Exclude Overlap" in the Pathfinder. It creates amazing patterns! But I wanted to see what would happen if I used gradients instead of solid colors.

Now, if you've ever tried to make a complex gradient in InDesign, you're probably familiar with how difficult it is. In one of my other articles, I outlined a case for creating your gradients in illustrator, rather than InDesign. Illustrator has an expandable gradient panel so it's easier to work with. Plus, you can copy and paste objects from Illustrator right into InDesign, and they will bring the gradient swatches with them.

But did you know that Illustrator already has a large selection of pre-built gradients? Go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Gradients.

Choose one of the gradient libraries, and it will open up in a new panel.

I wanted all these gradients, so I made a bunch of rectangles, and applied the gradients swatches to them.

Then I copied and pasted them into InDesign, where they show up in the Swatches panel. Now you can delete that mess of rectangles.

Now, run the script according to the instructions on the RagingHull page.

Now you can start experimenting with all the gradients you copied over from Illustrator. I also added played with the blending modes. Note that you will get very different results, depending upon which Transparency Blend Mode you use (RGB or CMYK).

CYMK Transparency Blending Mode

RGB Transparency Blending Mode

Here are some of my other experimentation results.

You can different results just by changing the gradient type from Linear to Radial.

Linear Gradient, Red, White, and Blue,  Lighten

Radial Gradient, Red White and Blue, Lighten

Linear Gradient, Soft Light

Linear Gradient, Hard Light

Linear gradient, Color Burn

Luminosity, Hue

By adding a shape with a different color on top, you can create even more interesting effects.
Mixed gradient swatches and blending modes
For this one, I scooted the objects a bit and it gave me what resembles a zygote.
Radial Gradient, Lighten, With objects scooted a bit

Sometimes the results look like a dance party.

Sometimes, you can even turn it into a globe-like effect.

Which, for some reason, when I grouped and pasted it into a tan colored circle, became green.

The original Raging Hull article discussed using the Exclude Overlap button in the Pathfinder. So I did that, then I went to  Object > Paths > Release Compound Path, and ran the script again. Add some corner effects, a stroke style, and voila! Fancy!

Fancy! (Note that this will last one will take a large amount of processing power).

Now, for me, if I ever used any of these objects, I would probably just take a screen shot of the part I wanted, and use  it as a design element. But however you choose to use your Indesign tie-dye  designs, have fun!